Monday, April 11, 2016

My Incarceration

I can feel the eye rolls from here.  I have a sixth sense about these things because I am a master eye-roller.  Wow...Savannah's having another medical problem...what else is new? Does this girl know how to blog about anything else?  Okay guys, cut me some slack.  I work, I study, I put my kid to bed, repeat....I don't have anything juicy to tell you all EXCEPT for my freakish medical woes! Sheesh.

At least my last post was a departure from the normal Crohn's sob-story.  This tale isn't so much one that requires a solo violinist, so much as it needs a full-on orchestra playing Flight of the Bumblebee.  I guess what I'm trying to get at is, the following was more a whirlwind event that escalated rather quickly.  As I have done on some of my other posts, I must advise the faint of heart (or stomach) to read no further.

It was supposed to be a typical fall day off work: nursing class, pick the kid up from school, go run errands.  On my to-do list for the day was a lab order I couldn't put off (truth be told, I had to provide a stool sample to test for the ever-icky C-diff).  When I got out of class, I decided instead of dropping Dash off for my mother-in-law to take care of, I would relish some time with him and take him along for my errands.  Our first stop was the hospital, or as my child calls it: "momma's work".

We got out of the car and Dash begged me to carry him across the parking lot.  He and I both knew momma's not supposed to pick him up (for those of you who didn't know, I can't lift anything more than twenty pounds until I regain strength in my core).  But do you know how hard it is to say no to such a sweet request?  You can cheat every now and then, I told myself as I scooped my toddler off the ground and hurried across the parking lot.

As we approached the entrance, I quickly dropped my boy back to the ground and told him he'd need to walk from there.  As we made our way to the lab, I absentmindedly put my hand over my bag (a habit I've formed to determine if my bag needs emptying) and felt something I knew was bad: a hard bulge poking out from my abdomen.

Now, I've had a few prolapses before.  I've even had minor ones that didn't land me in the hospital and were corrected simply by lying down.  But this one was happening in public.  With my toddler in tow.  With only me to handle it.  My bowels were spilling into my bag while I was running an errand with my son.  This is a great recipe for panic-inducing stress - which is exactly why, by the time I was registered and in the waiting room to be summoned for my lab work, I burst into poorly suppressed sobs.

The unknowing bystanders in the waiting room shifted uncomfortably in their seats.  As a nurse walked by I shrieked (as casually as I could), "IS ANN WORKING TODAY??!!"  The confused RN shook her head and said, "Ma'am, are you alright?"

By now, my hysterics could not be hidden.  "No!" I swallowed a sob before I erratically explained, "I think my stoma is prolapsing and I was here for labs and I'm supposed to be here but I need to go to the ER now."

My tornado of panic caught the attention of the unit's manager.  "Everything is going to be alright," she said as she gave me a hug.  "Let's get you and your boy a wheelchair."

Oh, right.  What had the two-year-old been doing while his mother was having a public meltdown?  Let me just say, that he could not have been cooler or calmer if he had been a cucumber.  As I cried, he wiped my face with his sticky little sweet toddler hands and quietly kept saying, "It's alright, momma.  Let me get your tears."  As my bowels poured forth from my abdomen, so did my heart melt at his sweetness.

Now, let's fast-forward 45 minutes. I've just been ushered back into a room in the ER.  Dash was kindly whisked away by a rounding nurse friend so I'm alone.  I feel my bowel getting bigger in my bag.  I need to get the bag off as the stoma is swelling more and more, being choked by its container.  The ER doc walks in on me wrestling with my bag.  "Oh," he says.  "I usually don't see this."  Comforting, doc.

To his credit, it's not what I usually see either.  Pictured below is what my stoma normally looked like:

in between bag changes. Here, it is poking out about an inch from the skin
Once the doctor and I pried that forsaken bag off (yes - it was indeed a doctor who got his gloved hands dirty to comes to my rescue! I'm just as surprised as you!) this is what hung from my belly (squeamish people, you still have time to get out before you can't unsee this!):

Here, I'm lying down, holding my stoma in my palm - at this point it was about 4-5 inches out
"We'll probably need to pour sugar on it," I told him.  He gave me a brief, blank look before leaving to immediately call the colorectal surgeon immediately.  Bless his heart; the guy knows what to do with the routine heart attack but was helpless with this freak.  "It reduces the swelling," I shrugged to the ostomy nurses who surrounded me.  They were also unable to help but offered distracting words of comfort.

Fast forward again: Dr. Allen, a young thirty-something woman walks in.  She took one look at me and told an aide, "Call the cafeteria.  Get a gallon bag of sugar."  Only my wacky medical hijinks could be treated with a gallon of sugar.  Once it arrived, she proceeded to pour the sugar over my bowel that was getting to be a sick, bruised shade of navy.

My snow-capped mountain of a stoma wasn't getting smaller like it should.  "I'm going to need to push your bowel back in by hand," Dr. Allen apologized.

"Well I'm gonna need a pain med," I replied.  Morphine was quickly ordered and injected.  Dr. Allen jabbed her fingers into my stoma.

The feeling of someone trying to put your bowels back inside your body is not one I can easily put into words.  It is a feeling of simultaneous extreme discomfort (like that of an enema) and a sharp pain that feels like someone is wringing out your intestines to be hung on the line to dry.

"Okay, I need to be consciously sedated for this!!!!" I upped the ante.  A dose of versed (a personal favorite of mine) was ordered and immediately administered.  Dr. Allen kept jabbing but that dang swollen stoma just couldn't go back where it belonged. "MORE SEDATION!!" I cried.  Another round of versed.  "It's my lucky day," I attempted to joke with the saint of an aide who let me squeeze her hand white during this ordeal.  Another jab to the stoma.

"OH, F***!!!!"  I couldn't believe it.  I was officially one of those patients who screams obscenities in the ER.  As someone who was working in an ED at the time, I knew the eye rolls this behavior elicits much of the time.  "Sorry," I said to the crowd in my room, "I really don't want to be that patient!!!"

"Um, your gut is spilling out?" the aide offered. "I think it's justified."  That girl really was a saint.

Dr. Allen took a break from the wrestling match.  "So, it's time to go to surgery," she said.

While I had always romanticized emergency surgery (yes, I get it, I'm a freak), actually requiring it was devastating.

"There has to be another way," I said.  "Can you take me to the hospital where my regular colorectal surgeon is?"  I pleaded, like a toddler stalling the inevitable bedtime by feigning sudden insatiable thirst.

"There's no time.  Your stoma is incarcerating [suffocating] itself and will be necrotic [dead] by the time you'd get there.  We need to go now." 

I clearly had no choice.  I resigned myself to the surgery and dealt with it like any millennial would: I took the moment to Instagram. A picture of me being wheeled off with my poor husband in tow was captioned, "brb everyone, going to emergency surgery!!!" 

Next thing I knew, I was in the OR.  That familiar mask was put on my face and I gladly inhaled the plasticky air.  Breathe in deep, a faceless voice told me.  "You don't have to tell me twi..."

And so ended my errand gone awry.

Dr. Allen had to remove 10 centimeters more of the little small intestine that remained.  The new stoma she gave me (my third) has turned out to be the cutest yet.  Is there a lesson to be learned here (per my usual blog MO)?  I'm sure there is somewhere.  For now, I won't dig too deep except to say  maybe don't take your kid with you when you need lab work done.  I never did find out about that c-diff.*
Hospital bed snuggles with my sunshine

We can rejoice, too, when we run into 
problems and trials,
for we know that they help us
develop endurance.
Romans 5:3 NLT

*I do not have c-diff.  We would definitely know by now

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